Category Archives: Container Ideas

September Container Report: 3 months later

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sept_gray.urn500When planning container combos to display throughout our gardens and nursery, I want each planter to showcase unusual selections and color combos, have a beautiful rhythm, be easy to care for and still look terrific at the end of the season! Of course with our unpredictable summer weather (some years too wet, others too dry) some combinations hold up better than  others. Above are my five favorite ensembles, and below are the dozen pots shown in the early summer “Before Shots” blog post , ( the end of September shot is right beside it).

ba_sept_tall_cylTall Cylinder Pot…The Verbena bonariensis, Tradescantia and Lantana exploded! The Melianthus held its own, but the Lemon Coral Sedum lost its battle with the Pale Puma Tradescantia, and the Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ has wimped out. Note that the Lantana montevidensis has never needed deadheading and shows no signs of stopping flower production.

ba_septhydpotThe California Hydrangea Pot has aged gracefully. While the Ornamental Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’ had a great showing all through July into August, it finally allowed the Gold Wings’ Tradescantia to take over spilling, while the slower growing Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’ is now dazzling into fall.

basept15_ironurnThe Cast Iron Urns have retained a subtle beauty all season. (The purple cast to the September shot demonstrates how the end of day light is changing. ) A super easy combo that required only an occasional cutting back of the Pelargonium sidoides flowering stems, the plant selections of Beschorneria, Cuphea hyssopifolia aurea  Tradescantia Pale Puma’ and variegated Ivy held its scale well for the past 3 months.

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Hummer’s Pot. Perhaps the least impressive pot at the beginning of the season but with real staying power as the plants aged beautifully. The Cuphea ‘David Verity’ has only asked to be watered regularly, and has never needed deadheading, the Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ did need a cut back once this summer, and the Oxalis ‘Zinfandel’ continues to shine with its dark foliage and tiny yellow flowers. Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ is working well here. Hummingbirds loved visiting, and this is still an impressive planting for autumn.

basept_whitepotThe white form of Lantana montevidensis began to overwhelm the other plants in the White Bean Pot , even after being cut back several times….Oh well, too much of a good thing has its drawbacks.

ba_septcastironCharcoal Urn... I wasn’t surprised that this combination of Phormium and Succulents would be easy care and would age well. It needed only occasional watering, and cutting back the Silver Falls Dichondra when it dripped onto the pathway.

basept15_spiderwreathCan you notice any difference in the Living Wreath of Mini Spider Plants (left–June, right–late September)? This is the perfect vertical garden for a shady door, needing only twice a week watering, even during the hot dry summer we just experienced.

basept_abutilonpotThis ensemble spoke quietly at first but became more memorable as the summer continued. The Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’ became more floriferous, the Heuchera ‘Beaujolais’ is taking on fall appropriate tawny tones, and I just adore the little Rosary Vine, Ceropegia woodii, dangling over the sides, with its peculiar pink and charcoal gray flowers.

basept_begoniaamorphoThis shady pot grouping was an experimental mix of similarly colored foliage…the tall Amorophophallis konjac(Voodoo Lily) never put out a spathe, but looked okay until early September when it very quickly began to go dormant. I was left with a nice full pot of Begonia ‘Wild Pony’ and little B. bowerae.

basept_zenThe Zen Bowl of succulents hardly needed any care so we didn’t pay attention until it became overwhelmed with Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ in early August, which completely smothered  its shorter neighbors. A harsh cut back helped, but it was a little too late for the buried plants to put on much growth.  We’ve had such a warm September that the succulents have yet to take on their fall tones…will try to get another image now that we are starting to get cooler nights.

basept15_martiniThe Succulent Martini Pot was the hit of the summer…we sold this combination of plants over and over again. Notice how the rosy red flowers of little Crassula schmidtii add that perfect zing.

basept15_seashellOur classic Seashell Pot with Succulents has aged beautifully,wouldn’t you agree? The September image shows how different the end of the day light is three months later.

Which combination ideas might you borrow for your containers next year?

Previous years results: 

September shots 2014

September shots 2013

September shots 2012

The before shots…containers 2015

In early summer, I take “before” images of my containers and then “after” shots in September to document how well the compositions fared over the season.  The plant selection for each arrangement is based on great foliage and unique forms. Flowering plants must be long blooming but without the constant need of deadheading.  Here are a dozen “before” pics.

For sunny and partial sunny areas….

Tall Cylinder Pot: Melianthus major, Verbena bonariensis, Heuchera 'Southern Comfort', Sedim 'Lemon Coral', Lantana montevdensis and Tradesantia 'Pale Puma'

Tall Cylinder Pot..Melianthus major, Coprosma, Verbena bonariensis, Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’, Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’, Lantana montevdensis and Tradesantia ‘Pale Puma’

California Hydrangea Pot: Unknown Hydrange, Origanum 'Kent Beauty', Oxalis triangularis, Abutilon 'Pink Charm'

California Hydrangea Pot: Lovely, but unknown Hydrangea, Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’, Oxalis triangularis, Abutilon ‘Pink Charm’

Not flower bud hardy for us outdoors in zone 6A, but love the coloring of this dwarf hydrangea we purchased on a trip to CA a couple of years ago.

Closeup of the Hydrangea, which influenced color selection. This hydrangea, purchased on a trip to CA a couple of years ago, (don’t think it’s ‘Pistachio’), is not flower bud hardy for us outdoors in zone 6A, but makes a great container specimen.

Cast Iron Urn: The friendly agave relative, Beschorneria 'Flamingo Glow' with Cuphea hyssopifolia aura, Pelargonium sidoides, Variegated Ivy and Tradescantia 'Pale Puma'

Cast Iron Urn, starring the friendly agave relative, Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’ with Cuphea hyssopifolia aurea, Pelargonium sidoides, Variegated Ivy and Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’

Detail, showing Cuphea hyssopifolia aura and Pelargonium sidoides

Detail, showing Cuphea and Pelargonium sidoides

Hummer's Pot: hummingbird magnet Cuphea 'David Verity' with Heuchera'Southern Comfort, Oxalis 'Zinfandel', Coleus 'Tapestry' and Helichrysim 'Limelight'

Hummer’s Pot: Hummingbird magnet Cuphea ‘David Verity’ with Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’, Oxalis ‘Zinfandel’, Coleus and  Helichrysum ‘Limelight’

White Bean Pot: Gaura 'So White, Pelargonium sidoides, Heuchera 'Obsidian'and Dicondra 'Silver Falls'

White Bean Pot: Gaura ‘So White’, Pelargonium sidoides, Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, Lantana montevidensis alba and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

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Charcoal Urn: Pink Stripe Phormium, with a variety of succulents and Dicondra ‘Silver Falls’

And for more shady spots…

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A living wreath  (sort of a vertical container) for shade: Mini Spider Plant (Chlorophytum ‘Bonnie’ )

 

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Abutilon ‘Pink Charm, again, with Heuchera ‘Beaujolais, Pilea microphylla variegata, Fuchsia ‘Madame Daishu’ and the barely seen Ceropegia woodii (String of Hearts Vine)

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Amorphophallis konjac with big Begonia ‘Wild Pony’ and petite Begonia bowerae. 

And of course: Succulents…I’ll try not to bore you with too many!

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A new succulent combination for the 32″ black zen bowl…(there are too many plants to list).

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Succulent Martini anyone?

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Fan favorite Succulent Clam Shell.

Which container planting can you see in your garden?

PS…Check back in September to see which containers till look fabulous.

Digiplexis x ‘Illumination Flame’

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Sometimes amazing things happen when you cross similar plants from different regions: Digitalis (European Foxglove) and Isoplexis (Canary Island Foxglove. The result: beautiful perpetual blooming 3′ spires of tubular flowers, which are colored sunset coral in bud and then open, exposing yellow throats with hints of apple green. This particular selection, ‘Flame’, is the first of the Illumination series introduced by Charles Valin which won the prestigious award of Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2012.

Last year we grew Digiplexis ‘Flame’ in a large pot. It began to bloom in early June and carried on for months, well into September. The blossoms are sterile, which tricks the plants to be constantly in flower.  We brought the container into the cool greenhouse to winter over and it’s back up and about to start the show all over again. This year we’ve also planted it in our garden beds for the constant color it provides. We envision it as the vertical complement to Dahlias and Summer Phlox in a sunny, enriched , well drained border which gets an average amount of irrigation. I can attest that the hummingbirds were regular visitors, as were bees and butterflies, and I suspect it is deer resistant as well.

Because Digiplexis inherited its hardiness genes from its Canary Island parent, it will only winter over outdoors in zones 8-10, (although one of our customers bragged to me the other day that hers wintered over outdoors in a protected spot in zone 7).  Dig  up the roots after the first frost, as you would a Dahlia and store in a cool spot that stays above freezing for the winter. Gardeners in warmer winter climates don’t have to worry about this, and I can only imagine the display in their garden year after year!

Buy online

 

September Containers, the after shots

Each year I take pictures of container combinations in June (see post) and then again in late September, to document and evaluate  for good looks and ease of care.  No two growing seasons are alike here in New England, so it’s difficult to say for sure that plants that showed off this year  will do so next. What started off being a moist summer ended up quite dry here in Dartmouth, MA. We haven’t had measurable rain now for 6 weeks or more, and  August was particularly cool.  A few of the containers in the June post did sell, and I’m hoping they fared well. I added a few combos planted with late summer and early autumn in mind.

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Phormium ‘Pink Stripe’ with Pelargonium sidoides, and Dichondra, an effortless combo, and look how much the Phormium has grown!

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Phormium ‘Apricot Queen’, with Lantana montevedensis, and Tradescantia ‘Purple Heart, probably should have been cut back a bit, but I swear the only upkeep we have provided is watering.

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Begonia thurstonii, with Foxtail Asparagus Fern, Fatshedera x lizei, and Coprosma,…The Begonia grew a lot but is going through a quiet flowering spell.

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This planter for shade was really about foliage, although the dark leaved Begony ‘Ebony’ is still flowering, and the Hemizygia is about to dare the frost with spires of soft pink blossoms. Other plants featured are Pellonia repens (Watermelon Begonia), Pilea m. ‘Variegata’, and Begonia ‘River Nile’

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The Agonis ‘After Dark’ (Peppermint Tree) put on some growth, the succulents grew a little, and although this container stills looks good, it didn’t transform much.

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I’ve has this shell embellished pot for years. …This turned out to be the best pairing yet…succulents…this combination of colors and textures match the patina. Included are Echeveria ‘Melarco’, Pachysedum ‘Blue Pearl’, Crassula, Sedum adolphi and dasyphylluym, and Senecio ‘Mini Blue’.

Echeveria 'Afterglow' with Aptenia cordata ,Foxtail Asparagus and Phormium 'Sundowner' in a 14" pot.

Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ with Aptenia cordata, Foxtail Asparagus and Phormium ‘Sundowner’ in a 14″ pot.

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Planted this up in August for a fall Container Class, using some hardy perennials: Sedum sieboldii, Schizachyrium ‘Carousel’, & Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ plus a few tender succulents: Aptenia cordata and a pewter gray Graptoveria.

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All hardy plants in this display: a 1 gallon Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’, with Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, Heuchera ‘Frosted Violet and ‘Circus’ plus Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’…this contain will put up with frosts and look good into November.

How did your containers do? What were your favorite combinations?

The before images: Containers 2014

I design containers using uncommon plants which will look great all season with a minimum of care. Here are the early summer images of  containers for sun, shade, and of course succulents, our favorites! Check back for the September report to see how well they performed.

Phormium, Dichondra, Oxalis, late June 2014

Phormium, Dichondra, Oxalis, late June 2014

Tradescantia, Pelargonium Janie, with Abutilon 'Kentish Bell' and Phormium

Tradescantia, Pelargonium Janie, with Abutilon ‘Kentish Bell’ and Phormium

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Cobalt blue pot with everblooming Lantana montevidensis

Begonia thurstonii with Fatshedera, Coprosma, Foxtail Asparagus and Ivy

Begonia thurstonii with Fatshedera, Foxtail Asparagus and Ivy

Hemizygia, Pilea Pellonia and Begonia 'Ebony', June 2014

Hemizygia, Pilea Pellonia and Begonia ‘Ebony’, June 2014

A special pot of smaller succulents

A special pot of smaller succulents

Colorful tropical succulents…they'll be even better in autumn

Colorful tropical succulents…they’ll be even better in autumn

Zen Bowl with a mix of Hardy and tender Succulents

Zen Bowl with a mix of Hardy and tender Succulents

Tall vase with Agonis, Phormium 'Ed Carmen' and choice succulents.

Tall vase with Agonis, Phormium ‘Ed Carmen’ and choice succulents.

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Succulent Wreath in a moss form

Rehabbing Succulent Planters

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A succulent planter in mid April…ready for rehab.

Those of us who live in colder climates may be thinking it’s time to rehab last year’s tender succulent containers. Over the winter, these planters have been trying to soak up as much sun as possible on windowsills and in sunrooms, but it’s a sure thing that by mid spring many of your plants have become unbecomingly leggy. You have two options: disassemble the planter, plant by plant, then cut back and replant in fresh soil, or if the planter is not overcrowded or out of proportion, you can see if just trimming back is the answer.

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3 weeks later….the plants in this pot have begun to flush with new growth

I’m encouraging you to be ruthless when you cut back. After cutting off their heads these plants won’t look happy immediately, but the alternative could become down right ugly. Any cuttings from pinching can be stuck in sand  and rooted for more plants. You may find that some of the spreading succulents have exceeded their bounds and need to be lifted and divided…. Use these little divisions to tuck in around the container where their are “plant gaps”. Fertilize your planter with a seaweed/fish emulsion. It will take a number of weeks and some warm sunny weather for your planters to start to perk up.

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After cutting back the creepers, replace with fresh cuttings to fill holes and balance the design of your vertical planter.

Vertical Succulent Gardens are often in need of cutting back and editing. We usually leave our vertical planters horizontal on benches during the winter, to minimize stretching.  Still some plants such as the rosettes of Sempervivum or Echeveria may have become overwhelmed by creeping Sedum and Delosperma, and need to be replaced. We take fresh cuttings and secure them in place with floral pins. Fertilize with seaweed/fish emulsion , keeping the wall planter flat while the new cuttings root in, and move outside as soon as nights  stay in the 50’s or above. In a few weeks, growth will begin to fill in the empty spaces, and then you can hang.

Vertical Garden ...3 weeks later

Vertical Garden 3 weeks later

 related posts…:

Wintering Over Tender Succulents

Growing Vertically

September Report: Successful Containers

New England’s weather challenges even the most experienced gardener. The summer of 2013 certainly gave this gardener a dose of humble pie. Spring arrived late but was quite lovely for several weeks. June was cool and adequately moist (some folks in western New England were deluged with rain, but we were happy here with what we received. July was tropical. Hot, humid, humid, did I say humid? And there are plants that loved the tropical weather: Colocasia, Coleus Papyrus, Canna. Unfortunatley I hadn’t planned on hot humid weather, so I didn’t plant many of them this year. No this year I couldn’t plant enough succulents; in the ground, in containers, in vertical gardens. It could have been a better summer for growing them, but they managed to carry on sullenly and perked up when August proved to be cool and dry. And now we are here, at the end of the season, to judge which of the containers held up the best over the 3 month period. (See the June article: The Before Pictures  for evidence of how containers transformed.)

The Cissus had to be cut back. Begonia ‘Concorde  has resented the recent chilly nights. Still this has been an easy shade loving combo which I would repeat.

Coleus ‘Odalisque’ dominated this planter, Begonia thurstonii has held its own, but can’t say the same for the Begonia ‘Elegance’ (there is a glimpse of what’s left of it). Our Begonia boliviensis hybrids and and most of our Fuchsia really pooped out early this year.

This partial shade planter wasn’t shown in the June post, but it has been quite lovely all summer. Plectranthus ‘Velvet Elvis’ is really starting to bloom now. Why don’t people grow more of the interesting trailing ivies?

I was a little disappointed that the Xanthosoma didn’t explode with growth, but the gentle green foliage of Pelargonium tomentosum looked fresh all summer, and I love to rub its leaves as I walk by.

Once the Eucomis bloomed, that was that, and then the Lantana montevidensis with its profusion of lavender flowers on wiry stems took over. Oxalis triangularis never disappoints, and Tradescantia ‘Blue Suefilled in nicely.

We have planted this classic stone bowl with succulents for the past few years, but this year’s growth was the least impressive. Not bad, but look what it did last year.

Only the Senecio cylindricus put on growth. I think all the other succulents just sat there. At least they didn’t melt.

This bowl was planted around the 4th of July, with a mix of hardy and tender plants. The Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’  is beginning to bloom with it’s bright orange buttons. I like the hardy Sedum ‘Turkish Delight’ but next time would leave out the Sedum ‘Xenox’.

We moved our famous River Pot to a more prominent spot. What wouldn’t look great in this pot?

The vertical garden is still looking sweet. The Crassula schmidtii has been in bloom for weeks, and the Echeveria ‘Atlantis’ continues to want to send up flowers.  I made several  versions of these vertical gardens, experimenting with just hardy plants and mixing lots of different tender succulents. Some succulents grew well despite the weather, others were more temperamental.

This container continued to inspire customers to replicate it all summer. The grouping is Echeverias ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Lola’, Phormium ‘Pink Stripe’, Saxifraga ‘Maroon Beauty’, and silvery Dichondra.

What was your summer weather like and  how did your containers fare this year?

Autumn Containers II: Using Succulents

After the lazy days of August, September can seem like the busiest month of the year. So many neglected chores, both inside and out, await attention. For a lot of us, the summer containers gracing our entryways need a makeover. You can buy a pot of mums or……

You can plant succulents.

Followers of this blog must know by now that I am a big succulent fan, and even after a wet and extremely humid spell, I can still say the succulents planters we did up earlier not only still look sweet, they are going to get better as the night temperatures become chilly. Cool night temperature bring out deep and rosy tones in the blue, olive and bronze foliage colors of the many non hardy succulents.  Many tender forms such as Echeveria ‘Black Princeand Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, begin to bloom as do many hardy species of Sedum such as S cauticola  ‘Lidakense’ , ‘Turkish Delight’ and‘Dazzleberry’.

Succulents are mix and match plants. Of course, they all like the same sandy, well drained soil mix, and the colors all work well together. I’d like to add that the most interesting combinations include plants which have light, medium and dark tones. In this pair of planters, I’ve used Euphorbia tirucalli var rosea, commonly called ‘Sticks on Fire’ (guess how it got its common name) for height, the blue gray rosettes of Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’,  a coppery orange tinted Sedum nussbaumeranum, the soft yellow Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ and an olive tinted Sedum tetractinum to spill over the sides. Tucked in for added dark tones is Sedeveria ‘Jetbeads’.

Tips

1.When you group succulents together you can pack them in quite close together. They do not need a lot of nourishment nor water, and they don’t grow very fast.

2.The selections that are not hardy in your area will need protection when temperatures dip below freezing, and here we sometimes get a really cold night in late October, followed by a spell of Indian summer.  Either move the pot inside if a frost is in the forecast, or cover with a large tarp or blanket.

3. Once it becomes apparent that temperatures will be below freezing at night on a regular basis, bring your container into a frost free area that gets bright sunlight. If your container is too big to bring indoors, dig out the specimen plants you would like to keep and pot them up in a sandy quick draining soil mix. I plan to do a blog post about what to do about wintering over succulents in a month or so.

Related Blog Posts

September Container Report 2012, Summer Containers 2012Summer Containers2013, Sedum tetractinum, Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’, Sedum sieboldii 

Autumn Containers I: Fresh Candidates

Come on…how about a little imagination? There’s more to fall container gardening than a pot of mums which are already on display at the supermarket entrance.  I can allow that some folks love their tidy appearance and that these almost perfect balls provide an immediate color fix, but really, do we all have to be that predictable? Of course not.

Here in Massachusetts, I like to pot up end of summer/fall containers in late August to give plants a chance to kick in with some growth before cooler temperatures and shorter days slow things down.  I had this lovely turquoise pot begging me to fill it, so I selected colors that would sing, still nodding to late summer, but with approaching autumn hues.

The winter hardy perennials used here include: Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ and Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’. The Hedera ‘Amber Waves’ and the Coprosma repens ‘Tequila Sunrise’ can take temperatures in the 20’s without being fazed, and the Plectranthus ‘Velvet Elvis’ with its dark green/purple foliage will star as the flowers begin to show off in September and October. Yes it could get frosted on a really chilly night, but should one be forecasted while it is still showing off, cover the planter with a large tarp or move inside for the night.

Summer Containers…the before shots

Each year in recent history,  I have been documenting with images some of the containers I plant up here at Avant Gardens. I like to take images within a few weeks of planting, and then again in September. The September shots will show which containers still look incredible. Plant selections with minimal care requirements are used  in each of these groupings. Below, you will find combinations for shade, part shade and sun.

For shade/pt. shade:

Begonia ‘Concorde’ with Cissus discolor,  Stromanthe ‘Tricolor’ and Pilea

Begonia thurstonii, with Coleus ‘Odalisque’ and Begonia ‘MK Elegance’

Begonia ‘MK Elegance’ with Hedera ‘Little Diamond’

Coleus ‘Limon Blush’, Begonia ‘Chocolate Red’ and Oxalis ‘Copper Glow’

for part shade/sun:

For sun or part shade: Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger with Coprosma ‘Marbel Queen’Pelargonium tomentosum and a purple leaved Tradescantia 

for sun:

Eucomis ‘Sparking Rosy’ with Oxalis triangularis, Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ and Tradescantia ‘Blue Sue’

Fan favorite: Classic Bowl with Mixed Succulents

Senecio cylindricus dominates this large basalt bowl (22″)

30″ ceramic trough with Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, Echeveria, various SedumSenecio talinodes  & Sedeveria

My favorite pot with Aeonium, Euphorbia and Echeveria

 Closeup:  Aeonium ‘Schwartkop’ with Kalanchoe, Echeveria & Sedum morganianum

The vertical garden was planted in late March, and now little  Delosperma ‘Firespinner’ is beginning to flower

Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ with Phormium ‘Pink Stripe’ and Dichondra

You can mix succulents with other plants which don’t mind dry conditions (like the combination above). Even though we have had an unusually large amount of rainfall lately in the northeast , all of our succulents and begonias are still thriving because we use a sandy well drained soil mix.  If you use a regular or rich potting soil, you chance disappointment from plants rotting away.

Check back in September, when I post the “after” shots!